Bahía Magdelana

2 July 2013

After Bahía Concepión we headed to Bahía Magdelana and Puerto San Carlos on the Pacific side of Baja.  Puerto San Carlos is a sleepy fishing village set among miles of mangroves and sandy bays with Ospreys on nearly every power pole through town. We stayed at Mar y Arena a hotel that offers camping and has a restaurant with wifi.  The hotel is not really set up to handle campers but they let us park our truck there and use one of the hotel rooms to take a much needed shower.  The gentleman who works at the restaurant is very friendly and knows a lot about the area including a little bit about birds.

California Towhee, Magdalena Bay. Quite a bit more color in the throat and crown than we're used to in the northern birds.

California Towhee, Magdalena Bay. Quite a bit more color in the throat and crown than we’re used to in the northern birds.

We did not have any information on birding in the area, so we set off to explore side roads that lead down to the mangrove estuaries around town.  Our first stop was the local fishing dock where we saw numerous Brown Pelicans, Heermann’s Gulls, and a few shorebirds (Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, and Willet).  Among the mangroves we also spotted several mangrove Yellow Warblers.   Next, we stopped at two small ponds just before entering town.  The ponds are on the west side of the road just after the bend in the road that leads to town.  At the ponds we saw 6 roosting Great Blue Herons, 1 Reddish Egret, 1 Tri-colored Heron, 1 Yellow-crowned Night Heron, 3 Black-crowned Night Heron.  Four Semipalmated Plovers were forging on the shore of Magdalena Bay near the pond. Mangrove Yellow Warblers and Savannah Sparrows were singing in the surrounding estuary.

We came across a couple of other dirt roads west of the bridge that meandered through the mangroves that provided more opportunities to see estuary species and desert species together.  We saw more Mangrove Yellow Warblers, Gilded Flickers, Green Herons, Loggerhead Shrikes, Snowy Egrets, Western Scrub-Jays, Whimbrels, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers all in the same vicinity.  We also saw several Western Meadowlarks around the mangroves, a recent colonist in the area due to agriculture expansion around Ciudad Constitución.  The last road we explored took us to a beautiful bay with sandy bottom surrounded by mangroves.  This area must be hopping with birds during migration and winter, great habitat all around.  Highlights here include a Common Tern that we had brief looks at as it went flying through the bay.  A Common Tern at this time of the year is a bit unexpected but we saw all of the field marks that would indicate a Common Tern; smaller tern with a medium gray mantle, medium length black bill, white forehead, larger amount of black in the primaries, and a black nape and eye patch.   To reach this area of mangroves and estuary take one of the first dirt roads on the right just after crossing the bridge on the way into Puerto San Carlos. There are a network of roads here that meander back through this area, but head north and west toward the bay and you will find the spot.

Our last stop of the day was at San Buto, a fishing village on the other side of Puerto San Carlos.  There are no services in San Buto, just a few homes along the edges of the mangroves.  To reach San Buto, take Hwy 22 towards Puerto San Carlos, turn left at the sign for San Buto and stay on the more heavily traveled dirt road into the village.  Once you arrive continue driving paralleling the mangroves out to the tip of San Buto.  The outer tip provides excellent mudflat habitat surround by mangroves and sandy bay… quite a beautiful spot and again another great spot for migrants and wintering waterbirds.  At San Buto we saw the regular cast of characters as well as numerous American Oystercatchers, Least Terns, Harris’s Hawks, Crested Caracara, and a Little Blue Heron.

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